Jira and Confluence notification overload: how to deal with it?
April 3, 2019
April 3, 2019
The Atlassian suite, including Jira, the ticketing service and Confluence, the internal documentation tool among others, is very popular across many industries. These tools are incredibly useful to orchestrate the cooperation of large teams. They are packed with features and highly extendable thanks to plug-ins and macros. They can get a bit frustrating to use, as the UI is often clunky and the overall design logic is sometimes convoluted. The ways notifications are handled among the suite is also part of the recurring criticisms.
The Notifications Overload Within the Atlassian Suite
The Atlassian suite, and particularly Confluence is notorious for its weird email policies. Indeed, regular users have little to no control over the emails and notifications they receive. Instead, it’s the workspace administrator who decides the email frequency for every user of the workspace.
Confluence notifications overload
Atlassian suite users genuinely appreciate it, but if you look at reviews of Confluence for instance, you’ll find three recurring themes:
- The aggressive notification policies (more in this below)
- The search is not as good as it could be
- The page editor can be frustrating
We’ll leave the two last for others, and focus on the first one. Why do Confluence and Jira send so many notifications and emails?
The “notify watchers” quandary
It turns out that the main culprit of Confluence’s notification overload is one small but highly impactful feature:
Notify Watchers. While you are editing a page on the app, you’ll find the checkbox in the bottom part of the page next to the “Publish” button. The frustration lies with the fact it’s ticked by default.
In practice, it results in many notifications being generated even for minor modifications such as fixing typos; they get an email sent from Confluence to update them about the change. Anybody who edits a page and forgets to untick the box will be updating the whole workspace of its every move.
The whole “watching” system in Confluence is confusing. Indeed, a regular user (=not a workspace admin) is unable to know who are the watchers of any given page. On Confluence Cloud, the only solution lies with additional plug-ins such as Bulk Action Tools.
With the default workspace settings, you can be watching all pages of the workspace or only the one you create (this feature is called “autowatch”). One of the most annoying aspects of this feature is the lack of digest, as Atlassian states it on Confluence support:
There's no daily digest for email notifications. You'll receive immediate emails for important notifications (like mentions and new pages), but when lots of changes are being made at the same time, you'll only receive a single email with all the changes (within a 10-minute window).
When it comes to notifications, JIRA is not any better
Atlassian’s JIRA Service Desk (JSD) is very efficient and easy to use, making the logging of requests and interacting with users very simple and intuitive. Just like Confluence, aggressive notification and email settings are configured by default. Here’s the default notification scheme for a new JIRA project:
All users of the workspace are notified of everything by default. That’s a lot of notifications. The problem is so widespread that in some workspace the emails sent by JIRA are flagged as spam. It could come from many different reasons, ranging from the high frequency of the emails sent by JIRA to users in the workspace flagging them manually as spam.
It’s the issue (or page on Confluence) updates which generate most of the notifications. The admin can remove the notifications on
Issue Updated from the notification schedule to reduce the load.
Still, it feels more like a workaround than a real fix. So what can you do?
Filtering Can Help to Deal With Atlassian Notification Overload
You can manage your incoming Atlassian email notifications using Gmail’s filters to send email to a label, or archive, delete, star, or automatically forward your mail. You can create different rules depending on the priority of the notification type: comments with mention should be the highest.
The only problem with Gmail filters is that once you have created one, emails are transfered in a folder that you can sometimes forget to check.
Another tool can be used: Gwapit automatically filters notifications coming from Jira and Confluence without the need to create rules. The UX has also been redesigned so that your emails are bundled and not hidden into a folder.
You can then organize your incoming notifications in service-agnostic groups according to your logic. Groups can filter notifications directly from JIRA based on their types, reporter, assignee, status, and description.